By Bisi Lawrence
Just a week ago, the nation was agog with the news of two breakthroughs, one factual while the other was uncertain even on the face of it. In the first instance,the World Health Organization declared Nigeria free of the onslaught of the dread Ebola Virus Disease, and only one other news could have been as welcome as that. The nation had also been under the menace of the Boko Haram terrorists who had become a massive thorn in the flesh of our security.
And the second breakthrough reported was that a cease fire had been declared and negotiations that could lead to the release of the two hundred and more young girls abducted from Chibok would follow immediately. It turned out to be a case of good news and a bad news. First, the good news.
The World Health Organization’s declaration was based on the fact that no Ebola case had been reported for six weeks, the period during which the disease would have erupted if it existed. It was therefore ruled to be no longer a danger to the community.
The situation brought a lot of cautious relief because this is a disease that has proved very difficult to manage. There has been no vaccine developed for it and the degree of its infectiousness is extremely high, being transferable at a mere touch.
It has proved deadly against the health officers working against it with the same ease as the patients themselves. Swift as it is to kill, it does not lend itself to quick identification since its symptoms are synonymous with those of common fevers. These are some of the causes for its being able to take hold in West Africa where it has wreaked havoc on lives in some countries where its danger has not yet abated.
But beyond that, Ebola was not regarded with any sensitivity about the dimensions of its extent at the initial stage at this its resent coming. It had indeed appeared before but not with so much force, and not in the West African region. ‘Some kind of vaccine should have been developed against it before now. That is yet to happen even at this time, though a lot of effort is being made now because of its frightening strike force.
The drugs that were called into play were described as “experimental” even after the efficacy of one or two of them had proved considerable. And then the most efficient was subjected to what seemed like hoarding tendencies.
All efforts should be made to meet any threat of this disease head-on in future. It is not unlikely to erupt again. That is more than a mere possibility. We should not therefore only heave a breath of relief and forget all about its danger. It is still present.
On the heels of the declaration of freedom from EVD arose a claim made for those who should be congratulated for the feat of removing this awful menace from our lives. Of course, the Federal Government should be commended for, at least, its demonstrated concern as displayed by the daily pronouncements of the Minister of Health about the developments as they occurred during the dark hours. They helped to keep the nation focused away from the disquieting influence of irresponsible rumours which are apt to be aroused during such a period. The Lagos State Government also has a claim to a chunk of the encomiums along those same lines. The visit of caution to the Synagogue of All Nations gave a timely warning to such institutions of spiritual healing which abound on the periphery of Christian worship in our midst. And, of course, we should express our limitless admiration for our health workers—the doctors, nurses, pharmacists, cleaners and all those whose daily duties brought them into close contact with the patients. Indeed, some gave everything.
Among them was Dr. Stella Adadevoh whose personal sacrifice virtually prevented an extensive spread of the disease in Nigeria. She deliberately took the fall for her innocent compatriots though no less innocent herself. To perpetuate that supreme offer in a visible form would be a way of constantly reminding ourselves of the importance of keeping our guard up against Ebola and other dread diseases.
It should not be a half-hearted gesture or a belated one. It is a duty that must be done now while it is still all fresh in our minds so that it might be well and truly etched in our psyche, as it should be. Some have rightly suggested the award of a national honour, which is quite befitting. It is said, however, that national awards are not given posthumously in Nigeria. That point really need not be debated at this time. Even more befitting would be a statue of this heroine at a public place like the frontage of a General Hospital in Lagos or Abuja. And, by the way, her great-grandfather, the father of Nigerian nationalism, Herbert Macaulay, has no less than two of such symbols of acclaim in Lagos. Stella Adadevoh deserves no less.
And now,the bad news. Boko Haram and all it its connections and connotations have no place outside anything that is wholesome or pleasant. The Federal Government should not be blamed for falling line, hook and sinker, for the so-called “ceasefire” which has turned out to be a bad joke. The authorities had never been faced with this type of enemies who have no sense of honour or self-regard. We had been clamouring for a breakthrough in the deadlock of our negotiation to recover the schoolgirls spirited away by the bandits who claim to be a religious sect. But it seemed we were not able to accept the reality of the odious situation. We are at war; we have always been at war, with these godless people who see themselves as an extension of a world-wide movement to establish their corrupt form of a government by war. The only language they speak is through extreme violence which openly discounts the value of human lives, including their own. They are ruthless and implacable. We must, and can only prevail against them by degrading, then and diminishing them, and destroying them. Like Ebola.
Anything goes. Nigeria is a great country in its own way. Here we have an extravagant series of presidential campaign on behalf of a candidate that, for a’ long time, seems to sit on the touchlines watching the drift of the game. Little comment is made, and less notice seems to be taken of the fact that the entire carnival is really outside the time-limit prescribed by law, although everyone talks glibly about the importance of “the rule of law”. It is all part of the obsession of the gentleman himself about winning an election he holds everyone in suspension to declare for.
A famous television star, and one of the best features creators that the media has known in this country, seemed to have strayed into the “politics of a sure thing” summoning her multi-talented gifts as also a lyrical singer to involving her dignity in praise-singing for the candidate. And why not? With a sound university degree in the arts, she has enough to be appointed a director-general to boot— or which came first, the jingle performance or the post? No matter.
Anything goes. We now have a ministry for “stomach infrastructure’, or is it merely an advisory position? We have already had offices that describe the holders as no less than court —or official-jesters, anyway, and tax-payers ha1dly took notice or questioned why. And no election can start and end with the polling exercise itself. The horrors have to be extended to the tribunal stage, no matter the position in contention, whether it be for a governorship or football chairmanship. The way some evidently successful contestants still carry on after their victory, one would have thought the race was still on.
But all is well. As the Minister of Finance and the Co-ordinating Minister of the Economy, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, has assured everybody, the nation is not “broke”. That makes us all happy, if she says so. This she says in spite of the diminishing revenue from falling oil prices accompanied by a lower output in production. Ominous as that may seem, Dr. Okonjo-Iweala is sure that we have contingency plans to cope with any concern, especially as it may tend to affect the 2014 Budget.
This might translate actually into our cutting down on our expenditure (as notated in the budget?), we may also have to tamper with our fiscal policy and seek to resource for more revenue, albeit, in a one-commodity (oil) dependent economy. We may also rely confidently on the facility—that is debt—of over one billion dollars which will be owed to foreign market at much lower terms than could be attainable in the domestic finance market.
The monthly revenue allocation that should be shared by the Federal Accounts Allocation Committee was put on hold because the funds were not available for the exercise. But we are not broke. There used to be a military term for such a situation during the Second World War… if you will pardon the reminiscences of an octogenerianA. It went under the acronym, SNAFU—Situation Normal, All fouled Up!